Designing Courses – Setting Goals, Outcomes and Objectives

beginWe have all heard that statement. It applies to so many areas of our lives, retirement, careers, marriage, school, grocery shopping.  Who has gone to the store without knowing what you are planning to cook for the week, only to make several more trips each day to get another ingredient.


Beginning with the end in mind is an essential part of education. Regardless of how students are being educated, the best results occur when there is a plan in mind.  One instructional design method, first introduced by Grant Wiggins and Jay Mc Tighe (Understanding Design) suggest the best curriculum designs begin with the desired outcomes or standards. Next a designer would determine assessments that would demonstrate mastery of the outcome.  Once the assessments have been determines, activities and instructional strategies can be orchestrated that would help the learner construct and organize information in order to successfully complete the assessment.


Any teacher knows that it is easy to just open the curriculum and follow the path that the author has developed. Perhaps the author has implemented the backwards design principle, and the path can be gingerly followed. However, when looking to personalize and differentiate instruction it is important to consider the goals and learning objectives for each student. This is not to say, ignore the given curriculum, but rather use the curriculum as the activities or assessments to reach the desired outcomes and supplement with other resources to achieve the outcomes.


When beginning to plan a course of study, first begin with a goal. A goal is a single sentence that describes the overarching purpose of the course.  


2009 Flicr Created by Doug
2009 Flicr
Created by Doug

For example, the goal of a course might be: The participants in the course will develop and deliver quality virtual blended courses for students of Innovative Education Management Schools. Learning outcomes are still broad, and generally there will be 6 to 10 for a semester course. One learning outcome for this course is a blend  of multiple iNocal Online teaching standards: Participants will design an organized course with clear expectations, goals, objectives, outcomes and use data to modify virtual synchronous instruction to meet the diverse needs of students. One key component for writing a learning objective is the verb. The verb should convey exactly what the learner should be able to accomplish as an indication they have mastered the content to be delivered. The verbs should be active and explicit. Larry Ferlazzo wrote an article and uses a Bloom’s taxonomy image with appropriate verbs, that will help any provider of instruction to focus  on learning outcomes and objects that promote higher

order thinking processes and assessments that promote learning.


Active Reading with Kindle

kindleAs many students and families are taking advantage of Kindle Unlimited subscriptions for pleasure reading, the Kindle App can also be used to develop close reading skills.  Close reading is more than just annotating or highlighting a text. Close reading is active learning. Many kinesthetic  learners struggle with reading because they are not involved in the reading. These learners thrive with printed texted where they have the freedom to doodle, circle, underline and highlight. However, as we move to digital age and  paperless learning, where does that leave these students?

 To assist these students and all students, let’s take a look at a few solutions for digital close reading.  Blog writer, Dave Stuart, Jr. addresses the need for purposeful annotations. Students should have a reason for annotating their reading. As they read, the goal is for them to be learning from the reading during the process, asking questions, such as “what else was happening during this period in History?” or “What does action say about the person’s character?’ Perhaps students do not understand a word or phrase, or wonder why the author included a specific detail. Furthermore, as students are reading a text, they should know what is expected after the reading. Will they be analyzing the character, comparing a written piece to a multimedia presentation? Is the purpose to find connections between two historical accounts or compare a historical event to a current event?  

Given a purpose for reading, students will engage more effectively. By using active reading strategies, students are writing down their ideas, questions and thoughts. According to research in the science of learning by Richard Mayer, it is important to limit cognitive load.IMG_0137 Which means that the brain can only focus on a limited concepts at a time. By annotating during the reading process, their minds are free to think about the next part of the text.  When students have completed the reading, they should have a few thoughts from each page to guide their thinking, reflection, or response to the reading, These notes do not need to be lengthy, just enough to spark their memory.

Use the Kindle App for Active Reading

Watch for more posts on Google and adobe solutions.

50 States Google Map project

the_50_states_projectAs a interdisciplinary coordinator, I enjoy working with teachers and parents to use Google Apps for student learning. Integrating technology into teaching and learning provides the opportunity to reach higher order thinking skills as students engage in challenging and creative tasks (King, Goodson, & Rohani, 2009).

Most American students are tasked with the challenge of memorizing the 50 states and their capitals. Currently this is a fifth grade standard, but I have known of students as early as 1st grade beginning to learn these facts. However, if you ask most 20 year old adults to name 15 states and their capitals, you might be surprised at the answers. Here is a fun way for students to learn these facts, while engaging higher order thinking skills as they generate their own map and produce travel itinerary to visit capitals across the nation.


  • Computer
  • Google Account
  • Apps used – Google Maps, Google Sheets


Students will start by going to to see a list of states and capitals, then type them into a spreadsheet.  Additionally, students should research other details such as the Admission Day for each state, or a famous author/artist who lives/lived in the state. This is a wonderful opportunity to personalize the activity to peak student interest. Maybe the student is interested in theme parks, gardens, or sports. This information will be entered into the spreadsheet. In fact, up to 50 columns of detailed information can be included. Here are step by step instructions for entering this information into a spreadsheet.

After they have created the spreadsheet they will open the My Maps app to import all the information into a customizable map.  Once they have imported the details into their map, they can add images, customize the pins, etc.  Use the following instructions for creating the map.

To make this activity extend into math, ask students to create a travel itinerary. They can choose to travel by plane, car, bike or other means of locomotion. The more the students interact with the states and capitals, seeing them on the map, talking about them and learning about them, the more likely they are to remember them after they have taken a test.

Consider having students listen to the states and capitals songs while they are working on the project. Or for the ultimate technology creation, have the students screen cast their map with the states. Use one of many free web based screencasting tools, such as the Snag it Chrome Extension or Screencastify. Remember that the YouTube editor allows for quick edits and background music.


“Higher Order Thinking Skills – Center for Advancement of …” 2009. <>